Clare Priory extension wins RICS East of England Project of the Year Award 2015

Published: Monday, May 18, 2015


The extension of Clare Priory Church in Suffolk, by Inkpen Downie Architects (members of the National Churches Trust's Professional Trades Directory), has won the RICS East of England Project of the Year Award 2015.

The Order of Hermit Friars of St Augustine at Clare Priory in Suffolk were aware that their beautiful parish church was close to capacity for their rapidly growing community. Following years of consultation with public bodies, planning was achieved for the Scheduled Ancient Monument site in 2012 and Inkpen Downie Architects of Colchester were appointed to create a space that both fulfilled their requirements and complemented the existing building in terms of design and material quality.

Will and determination

The extension needed to be designed carefully, taking note of the historical importance of the 13th century building and its designation as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Consultations with English Heritage and detailed archaeological studies followed, before construction began in 2012.

New arches were created in the metre thick rubble wall of the church to allow a very modern extension to the building. Particular attention was paid to the comfort of the build and the whole area now benefits from warmth and light. The original church after thorough refurbishment is now used as an ante space gathering area and baptistry.

The project endured the worst economic crisis seen for years together with severe weather conditions, but thanks to the sheer will and determination by all involved, the building was completed in July 2013.

A design that works

On 6 May 2015, a record number of guests attended the RICS East of England Awards 2015 at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, for an awards evening hosted by Janine Machin from BBC Look East.

The awards recognise property professionals and showcase their talent and ingenuity across a wide range of categories: Building Conservation, Community Benefit, Design through Innovation, Infrastructure, Regeneration, Commercial, Residential and Tourism & Leisure. Inkpen Downie's project at Clare Priory not only won the Building Conservation category, but of all the high quality projects that the judges visited it also merited the accolade of Project of the Year.

Inkpen Downie, along with the winners from the other categories, will now go forward to the RICS Awards Grand Final on 16th October 2015 at The Dorchester Hotel, London.

The RICS judges said:

“As well as providing an excellent example of conservation work, the new build is of a high quality design and construction. Furthermore, the priory has enhanced facilities that benefit the existing and wider communities. The project ensures that the future of this site is secure and will benefit many in years to come. Of all the high quality projects that the judges visited this year Clare Priory stood out as the one that deserved the accolade of being our Project of the Year.”

Father Bernard Rolls of Clare Priory said:

"We have filled the church to overflowing twice already and seen a lot of visitors coming to view the church. The unanimous verdict is that it is a design that really works. They love the blending of the modern and the medieval. Quite a few have said, 'it should win prizes'."

John Inkpen of Inkpen Downie said:

“As architects we feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to be involved with such a sensitive and spiritual site and grateful to our clients for their unfaltering support throughout the project.”


The National Churches Trust's Professional Trades Directory offers a wide range of specialist trades companies who can help churches with every part of their building.

Find out more about Inkpen Downie and Clare Priory Church

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk

  • Clare Priory, Suffolk